Planning a Packaging Line Scale-Up


Pharmaceutical companies are constantly coming out with new products or increasing production of existing products. Is your facility equipped to handle such changes and the costs associated with them?

To determine whether the product should be manufactured on site or sent to a contract manufacturer, it is helpful to define the total project cost to purchase and install packaging line equipment in an existing facility, based on current marketing projections. 

At the Interphex exhibition, held March 31-April 2 in New York City, Mark Wilson and John E. Dusky Jr. of Omnival Inc. addressed this topic in their presentation, "Packaging Line Scale-Up from a Manufacturing Perspective." The example used was a study of a firm that bought a facility to manufacture three products packaged in blisters, bottles, and pouches. The company's goal was to come up with operational costs and determine what type of equipment was needed. 

According to Wilson and Dusky, The first step is to define the marketing and sales requirements and obtain as much information as possible from these sources, including information about types of finished products, types of packages, quantities, product mix, expansion, timing to market, and costs. Next, a forecasting spreadsheet for each package type (e.g., blisters, bottles, and pouches) is completed to determine the total annual marketing forecast. This is followed by a cost analysis of equipment, including estimated machine speed, which is based on the assumptions that the machinery will be operating a total of 2000 hours a year, packaging line efficiency will be 80%, changeover downtime will be 15%, and scrap will be 5%. At this stage, a one-page document should be sent to equipment suppliers requesting preliminary budget quotes and the physical characteristics of the equipment. 

At each step, companies should continue their dialogue with sales and marketing to stay informed of their goals. To get a handle on the equipment needed, companies should create a diagram for each line. Figure out how much space is needed for storage and equipment. Will the line be straight or L- or U-shaped? How will operators and visitors come through? How do the lines fit together? The answers to these questions will influence the equipment choices.

The final step is to estimate the cost per unit, labor costs, and miscellaneous costs, such as utility costs and plant operating costs. Once all these calculations have been made, the company is ready to compare its numbers with outside sources, review capital costs, and perform a return on investment.

So, is all this detail necessary? Too much information is better than not enough, according to Wilson. While most companies probably do this type of breakdown, there are different ways to approach it and certainly areas where one can scale back. For example, perhaps one line item on electrical charges is sufficient as opposed to an entire chart. Conducting a detailed analysis offers an accurate reflection of what is needed in terms of machinery, as well as an accurate assessment of what the machinery can and cannot do, thereby increasing efficiency. Failing to include as much information as possible could hurt the manufacturing process, add unnecessary costs, and affect the schedule, and in some cases, the quality of the final product. 

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